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The Wrecker by Clive Cussler

The Wrecker by Clive Cussler (2009)
I’ve read many of his books and they’re all such nonstop action that I find myself listening to one of his books on CD in the car during long road trips. I hate to turn off the car in the middle of a chapter!

Detective Isaac Bell makes his second appearance (after The Chase) in this historical thriller. Preview the book--take care you may get hooked!

The Dam Busters

The Dam Busters (1954)
British command during WWII is desperate to disrupt German production in the Ruhr Valley. Toward that end, they devise a clever and complicated plan to blow up crucial dams on the Ruhr River. Eccentric genius B. N. Wallis, played by Michael Redgrave, has devised a bomb that will bounce across the surface of the water and explode as it reaches the exact optimum depth. The only trouble is that the bomb must be dropped at a very precise height from a plane going a very precise speed at a very precise distance.

The first two-thirds of the movie explores the ingenious ways in which these problems are solved and the last third is the exciting mission itself. For those who liked The Man Who Never Was (1956), a movie about another British and American plan to mislead the Germans.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park (1993) PG-13Jurassic Park is a classic that gives you a look at what a dinosaur would look like, how it would move, and how it would sound. Some scientists are invited to a remote island theme park with living, breathing dinosaurs. The theme park erupts into chaos and turns deadly.

The dinosaurs are loose because the power goes out and it’s up to these scientists to survive the battle. Adventure awaits in every corner.

The movie is based on the book by Michael Crichton. Two thumbs up!

If you enjoyed this film, you may also like E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jaws.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) PG-13
Pilgrim (Michael Cera from Juno and Superbad) plays bass guitar in a Toronto garage band. He’s dating a high school girl, but meets his dream girl, Ramona Flowers, a punky American girl closer to his own age. The story is told as an allegory of life as a video game, complete with extra lives and the need to out-fight one’s enemies. Scott soon finds out he must defeat Ramona’s 7 evil exes before they can date. Not just another teen movie, the movie appeals to a much wider range of fans. Watch for an uncredited appearance by Thomas Jane (The Punisher) as one of the Vegan Police.

One of the writers of this film (Edgar Wright) also co-wrote the clever zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004). Bryan Lee O'Malley wrote the graphic novels the movie was based on.

The A-Team

The A-Team (2010) PG-13
Don’t take this movie too seriously. This remake of the '80s TV show provides a very entertaining two hours. The A-Team is comprised of Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Sharlto Copley. After they’re framed for an op gone bad, the quartet must break out of military prison to clear their name and finish the mission.

Check out a video interview with Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson. Also read an interview with director Joe Carnahan.

Night Passage

Night Passage (1957)Night Passage is an action packed western about former railroad troubleshooter Grant MacLaine (Jimmy Stewart), who lost his job after letting his outlaw brother, the Utica Kid (Audie Murphy), escape. After spending five years wandering the west and earning his living playing the accordion, he is given a second chance by his former boss. The train has been robbed several times by Whitey Harbin (Dan Duryea), the Utica Kid and their gang.

This film is like a wonderful meal that is full of both contrasts and surprises. There’s the obvious contrast between MacLaine and the Utica Kid of good vs. bad and older vs. younger. In addition, Whitey is nervous and constantly on edge while the Kid is calm and collected. MacLaine's former loves are also a contrast. Verna, a blonde, chose an older and wealthier man over MacLaine preferring security to romance, and Charlotte, a brunette, has chosen the younger and wilder Utica Kid over MacLaine.

There is one unintended contrast in the film. Two TV dads have small roles in the film: Hugh Beamont, the Beaver's dad in Leave it to Beaver and Herbert Anderson, Dennis' dad in Dennis the Menace. Both men play railroad employees but one of them is honest while the other is not.

Among the surprises, the film features two wonderful songs, a beautiful romantic ballad "Follow the River" and a lively jig "You can't get far without a railroad." Stewart plays the accordion and sings the latter song. Besides Duryea, the film also features character actors Robert Wilke and Jack Elam. All three of these actors made careers out of playing sadistic killers. And the photography is gorgeous.

There is a lot to like in the film. So check it out, get some popcorn and sit back and enjoy.

Up

Up (2009) PGUp begins with Carl Fredricksen as a boy meeting the love of his life, Ellie, and shows them dreaming about traveling to the mysterious Paradise Falls in South America. The movie fast forwards through scenes of their beautiful life together, all the while their dream of traveling eludes them. When Ellie dies, and Carl is about to be ordered by the court into the Shady Oaks retirement home, he escapes by tying thousands of balloons to his house and floating to South America. Now that Ellie is gone, Carl just wants to be left alone. Unfortunately, Russell, a local scout trying to earn a merit badge for helping the elderly, is pulled into the adventure, too.

They head for Paradise Falls and end up battling the famous explorer Charles Muntz who is trying to capture a rare bird assisted by his band of dogs who can talk with the help of special collars. After a shaky start, Russell and Carl become close friends who look forward to spending time together. Up is a wonderful story about chasing one’s dreams, but more importantly, it is about making new dreams and never giving up on life.

The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October (1998) PG
Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin star in this adaptation of Tom Clancy’s bestselling book and they get it right. Many movies based on a book do not succeed. The suspense and tension of the book are intact in this movie. The underwater shots of the giant submarine, the confusion of whom to trust, and more all lead to a blistering but satisfying conclusion. Perk up your summer with a little underwater excitement.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009) R
I was initially drawn to this movie for several reasons. First, I like both Denzel Washington and John Travolta as actors. Second, I love films of suspense. It was indeed fast-paced and suspenseful, and both actors were great. Travolta was a very believable, demented criminal who hijacks a New York City subway train. I did not see the original film of the same title, released in 1974, but I definitely want to see that too.

National Treasure

National Treasure (2004) PG
Share the adventures of a lifelong treasure hunter, his endearing assistant, and a tough archivist. Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) has been searching his whole life using the clues passed down through his family. When he finally breaks the first code, his partner Ian double-crosses him.

To preserve a precious piece of American history, Ben plots to steal the Declaration of Independence. Follow the clues as they take our heroes to historical landmarks with Ian and the FBI close behind.

The adventure continues in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.

Speed Racer

Speed Racer (2008) PG
Based on the animated TV series, Speed Racer may start out slow, but it soon becomes engrossing. Race car driver Speed Racer (Emilie Hirsch) loves driving – it’s in his blood (and it’s the family business). When he makes it to the big leagues, Speed learns about the dark side of the sport that took the life of his older brother.

Costarring Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and Matthew Fox, Speed Racer is psychedelic fun for the whole family.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) PG
Another Ben Stiller winner. Everyone will enjoy watching the authentic Smithsonian Museums' artifacts come alive! The story tells interesting historical facts about Amelia Earhart and General Custer.

I went to Washington, D.C., two years ago; therefore, the movie impressed me in that it was based on facts like the largest sea monster caught being at the Smithsonian and the use of the Air and Space Museum for action. Of course, you'll love seeing Abe Lincoln come to life walking and talking...and having recently climbed all those stairs up the Lincoln Memorial, I was impressed that the movie used Abe to great advantage.

See this on DVD for lots of laughs. And don't forget to check out the original Night at the Museum.

Public Enemies

Public Enemies (2009) RPublic Enemies with Johnny Depp is an entertaining historical account of John Dillinger's robberies in the 1930s. You'll recognize all the places in Indiana and Illinois (see the filming locations).

Great photography, acting, and storytelling. It is amazing to see the banks that were robbed and the number of robberies in a short period of time. Depp's human portrayal of Dillinger's personal life surprised me. I recommend this movie if you are used to gangster shootings in movies because it has violent/realistic action!

For more on Dillinger, visit the FBI's famous cases site; request the PBS documentary Public Enemy #1 and visit the companion website; or check out the WGN TV website for articles, videos, and more.

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Scat by Carl Hiaasen (2009)Scat is a book in the teen section which parents and grandparents should read and recommend to their children. Carl Hiaasen writes in the same style as he does in his adult fiction, but without the profanity. Adults will find this Florida environmental issue of the black panther very informative. Hiaasen’s quest continues to make his readers aware of environmental issues using interesting topics, writing style and suspense.

Read an excerpt from the book and read reviews at Amazon.com.

Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond (2007) R
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond is set in Sierra Leone in 1999 amid the chaos of Africa in armed conflict. It is an action drama played against the backdrop of political turmoil. The movie is about the illegal trafficking of diamonds in Africa: diamonds are harvested in Sierra Leone, smuggled into Liberia, and from there, sold to the rest of the world. Although it is tricky to make a movie on a controversial issue that is neither do-gooder nor exploitative, in this case the effort is surprisingly successful.

Blood diamonds were so named in the 1990s to call attention to the fact that African diamonds were being smuggled out of countries at war specifically to buy more arms and kill more people.

Weaker moments in the story are overshadowed by the film's willingness to risk disturbing an audience's sense of the world and how it is run. Blood Diamond is very much aware that these are problems beyond an easy resolution, and making a film that understands that is quite an accomplishment.

It really is a good movie, well acted, with Africa playing a wonderful supporting role!